Garry Kasparov – did he actually exist?

by John Nunn
10/20/2018 – A full century after the Doomsday Worm had erased all the world’s electronic records, British scientists discovered, excarvations in the suburbs of Hamburg, Germany, evidence of the existence of a game that was popular in the 20th century, and of the existence of a legendary champion of the game. We have a transcript of a lecture held in Oxford in 2147 by Prof. Eduard Sommer, which we quote in this spoof article by John Nunn. It also contains two remarkable puzzles.

Fritz 16 - He just wants to play! Fritz 16 - He just wants to play!

Fritz 16 is looking forward to playing with you, and you're certain to have a great deal of fun with him too. Tense games and even well-fought victories await you with "Easy play" and "Assisted analysis" modes.


The following article appeared fifteen years ago, during our yearly Christmas puzzle week. At the time, the editor was given free reign to publish anything he wanted, even if it was only vaguely connected to chess. Spoof articles were also permitted — the one essential criterion was they had to be entertaining. In 2003, John Nunn sent us the following contribution which definitely fulfils the criterion.

Did Garry Kasparov exist?

Address by Eduard Sommer, given at the Historical Conference on pre-Doomsday sports and games, Oxford, 2147

Ladies and gentlemen, scholars,

It is my privilege to address this distinguished audience and to describe my recent research revealing some tantalising glimpses of pre-Doomsday society. As you are doubtless aware, early 21st-century civilisation was complex almost beyond our imagination. The particular feature of this civilisation which concerns us is that of sports and games, which provided both competition and entertainment to the largely sedentary populations of the time. Although many of these activities are well documented, there are others which remain shrouded in mystery.

One of these is the legendary ‘chess’, believed to be a popular form of entertainment during the 20th century but which inexplicably fell into decline in the 21st. Unfortunately, this decline means that few records now exist relating to chess. We know only that it was played with a ‘board’ and ‘pieces’, but the precise nature of these is a mystery, as are the rules of the game. There were apparently few active practitioners remaining when the Doomsday Worm erased all the world’s electronic records in 2041, and as most of the world’s data was by then stored electronically, little pre-Doomsday information survived. The decades of chaos and anarchy which followed reduced this meagre remnant still further, with the result that our current knowledge of chess is almost non-existent. Only a few names have come down to us from antiquity, but I will say no more of this for the moment as I will be returning to this subject later.

Occasionally, however, a stroke of luck allows us to fill in some of the gaps. Recent excavations in a suburb of the pre-Doomsday city of Hamburg uncovered a videotape in a remarkable state of preservation. Several months of careful reconstruction have enabled us to piece together part of this tape. It does indeed concern the ancient game of ‘chess’ and promises to revolutionise our understanding of it. Much careful analysis will be necessary to extract the maximum information from this discovery, but now for the first time, I can present a transcript of the tape.

Videotape dated 24th March 2006: 

Presenter: Welcome back to game four of the Gary Kasparov vs Deepest Fritz match, which is currently at a thrilling stage. To help us follow the action we have grandmaster Donald Monarch and Isabel Young, who played the role of Lara Croft in the recent movie Tomb Raider 6. Well, Donald, what’s going on in this position?

Donald: Kasparov has a weak pawn on d4 ...

Presenter: Sorry to interrupt, but we don’t want to get too technical, do we? Oh, something’s happening, I think Kasparov’s about to make a capture. Now we’re going to see one of the exciting new aspect in this match. Using the innovative Y4D technology, Kasparov plays the whole game immersed in a virtual reality simulation of the chessboard. When he wants to make a capture, he has to destroy the enemy piece using one of the weapons hidden in the virtual environment.

Isabel: I think he’s going to use the rocket launcher on the horsy thing.

Presenter: It’s lucky he found the rocket launcher at move 12. Remember how in game two he tried to destroy the black queen using only the chainsaw? [Chuckles from Isabel and Donald.] Wow! Did you see that, he made mincemeat of that knight.

Isabel: Right between the eyes! Lara herself couldn’t have done better. Excuse me, Donald... [Isabel leans across Donald to reach a glass of water. Donald does his best to look somewhere else, but doesn’t really succeed. Presenter looks enviously at Donald.]

Presenter: Deepest Fritz has recaptured the piece, destroying Kasparov’s bishop with a bolt of lightning. I wonder if it’s going to repeat the tornado it deployed so effectively in game three. Wait ... what’s happening now? Kasparov is going to use one of his helplines. Which one will it be? I doubt if he’ll use ‘Ask the audience’ again after what happened in game one — only 0.5% of the audience managed to enter a legal move, and that guy got thrown out for being such a smartass.’s going to be ‘Virus Attack’ — Kasparov is allowed to introduce a virus of his own choosing into Fritz’s program code. While the arbiter attends to that, perhaps Donald can give us an overview of the situation.

Donald: I feel that Kasparov might get put into zugzwang...

Even this short section of tape has upset many of our preconceptions about chess. Most historians had believed it to be a quiet, gentlemanly pursuit but, as we can see, it is nothing of the kind. Although the precise details are still obscure, it is clear that it involved a considerable degree of violence and some sexual overtones. We know that these qualities were highly valued by pre-Doomsday cultures, which makes it a mystery why the game fell into decline.

Still more intriguing are the new insights into ‘Garry Kasparov’. This is one of the few names to have come down to us from early 21st-century chess and there has been much debate as to whether ‘Garry Kasparov’ was a real person or one of the purely fictitious characters so common during this period, such as ‘Superman’, ‘Tony Blair’ and ‘Harry Potter’.

Those arguing against a real ‘Garry Kasparov’ point to the inconsistent nature of the stories surrounding his name: that he fought against the evil ‘FIDE’ (whatever that was!), that he worked with a benign ‘FIDE’, that he both created and destroyed the ‘GMA’, etc. This new discovery, which casts ‘Garry Kasparov’ in the role of warrior superhero, adds more fuel to the arguments but seems unlikely to resolve them one way or the other.

My own view is that it is unlikely that one person could have performed all the feats attributed to ‘Garry Kasparov’, but it is just possible that, with a certain degree of exaggeration, this figure could have been based on a number of real people who were put together into a composite character. Clearly, more research is necessary, and I look forward to gaining further insights into the fascinating, if at times disturbing, world of pre-Doomsday chess.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

The above article was sent to us by Dr John Nunn. Here are two extraordinary problems our scientifically minded friend included at the time:


The above problem was part of a theme tourney, which in chess problem circles usually involves motifs like "White underpromotes to a knight and mates" or "White makes as many consecutive pawn moves as possible". Your task is to find out what the tourney wanted to see in their submissions, and how much of this did they get in Nunn's problem (which incidentally won the first prize).

One piece of advice: when you see problems like the one above you should immediately ask what the purpose of the row of pawns on the h-file might be. Often Black is in some kind of zugzwang and will be using the pawns to make delaying moves. So it is a good idea to remove the four pawns, in order to understand the basic mechanics of the position. After that, you can solve the full position — and understand the point of this chess problem.


This problem is taken from John Nunn's highly entertaining book Solving in Style. After quickly discovering that there appears to be no mate in two you are going to have to do some lateral thinking, aren't you?

The solution to these two puzzles will be provided here next week.


Dr John Nunn (born 1955) is an English grandmaster, author and problem-solver. He was among the world’s leading grandmasters for nearly twenty years, winning four gold medals in chess Olympiads, and is a much-acclaimed writer whose works have won ‘Book of the Year’ awards in several countries. In 2004, 2007 and 2010, Nunn was crowned World Chess Solving Champion. He continues to compete successfully in over-the-board and problem-solving events.


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